In My Life
The sad and nostalgic thing about growing older is that you will meet more and more people you care about, some of whom you may not have a chance to encounter again. As one goes through life, going places, connecting with new people, the inevitable has to come – parting.
Fondness and nostalgia sometimes keep me up at night, as I wonder, how all the friends in my life are doing, and how they are right now. I wonder if they’ve changed their unhealthy habits, for I truly wish for them to be around for a long time to come.
The other night, I couldn’t help but wonder how Joseph is doing. My student from Project Literacy. A jovial and rather round African American grandfather with a loud, hearty laughter and a head of graying short curls. Lugging around his brown battered briefcase as we meet for lessons at Barnes & Nobles on Westside Pavillion at Pico, his eyes would light up and a huge beam will be on his eyes as he saw me. Then we’ll order a coffee as I teach him English grammar and work on his writing – A story involving spies, President Obama and lots of action – the plot which I was made to swear to secrecy in writing because he hopes to convince Oprah to publicize his story when it’s done.
On some days, we’ll take it slow. We go for some donuts and have a good talk as he drives me in his white van with the “Belize” chain hanging on the rear-view mirror. “My parents are from Belize”, he would proudly tell me. Then he would share stories of his 3 year old granddaughter and how he loves her to bits.
I remember our last lunch together. Sitting at the Indian buffet, and both of us going for third and fourth helpings of our favorite gulab jamun. He was still trying desperately to get a job then, having been jobless for a year and about to file for bankruptcy. We would talk about politics a lot, and Obama, Republicans and Democrats and Mexican immigrants. I don’t always agree, but we always have a good discussion anyhows.
It wasn’t always easy. Some days I would feel incredibly jaded. I felt that I couldn’t really be of help; that despite the countless resume we’ve written up for him, the job wasn’t forthcoming. Somedays his troubles became mine, and with other school and life burdens, it started to get to my emotions.
He was sad that I was leaving. I told him not to give up. It was so nostalgic. It seemed just like yesterday when I was sharing with him that I was going to the Thai-Burmese border to teach. He told me to be careful.
A few days before I left, I gave him a call. He told me he got a job doing valet parking. Some days the tips were good, some days bad. I was happy for him but a little sad. He’s always trying so hard. His expertise was carpentry and construction and he has kept on taking classes and courses and certificates after certificates to improve himself so he can get a job. He would sit through the rush hour traffic driving from East Central LA to West LA to have English lessons with me since I couldn’t drive. Each time he came, he would show me – Look I got a new certificate in OSHA. Or plumbing. Or should I take this class for electricians?
I hope he’s well now. Is he still taking sleeping pills so he can sleep every night? I keep telling him to cut down on his sugars and coffee. I worry for him, because popping pills everyday can’t be safe. But I wouldn’t know, I haven’t been able to get in touch with him. I’ve taught him to use e-mail and created an account for him, but he hadn’t taken very well to it. And he constantly changes his number.
I wonder if I’ll see him again. I hope someday I can still look him up and say: “Hey, we never went to eat at any real good Southern food place. You said we would.”
The first few verses of the Beatles song “In My Life” pretty much sums up the feeling of the meanderings, meetings and partings of life:
There are places I remember
In my life, though some have changed,
some forever not for better,
some have gone and some remain,
All these places had their moments,
with lovers and friends I still can recall,
some are dead and some are living,
in my life I’ve loved them all.